rejection in the age of Millenia.

My phone silently rung in the middle of my costume construction class last Thursday, the blaring digits bearing an unidentifiable number. It’s probably just another telemarketer, I thought to myself, pressing ‘Ignore’ and refocusing on the task at hand (sewing buttonholes, of course). However, my phone lit up again, this time alerting me to a missed call and a message left by the unfamiliar number. After getting the go-ahead to listen to the message from my professor, I head to the back of the classroom, standing between stacks of colourful fabrics and unfinished hemlines, press ‘Play’ and hold the phone up to my ear.

“Hello Mary, this is Catherine from Nordstrom –” I drew a deep breath. Finally, the internship that I had lusted after, had interviewed for three months prior, had studied up on, had put off all other summer planning for this one, attainable plan was about to come to a heads. Within the forty seconds that was ticking away from this message, I would know if all of the time that I had put into longing after this internship would be worth it.

And in the one second that it took for Catherine to say, “I’m sorry, but,” I knew that the job was not mine. I hung up my phone, a slight ringing hollow enveloping me – the bright fabrics fading and the fringed hemlines blurring. I walked back to my desk with a smile on my face, letting my professor and classmates know that I was okay, that it was fine that I didn’t get the job, that now I could focus on other things post graduation.

And really, it was fine – it is fine. Sure, I wanted the internship and sure it was supposed to lead to a furthering of my passion for the fashion industry and sure it was going to get my foot into the stubborn door of this world that I love – but it wasn’t not getting the internship that left a ringing noise in my ears or made my vision blur a bit, it was the realisation that this is another pined-after internship that I decidedly did not get, despite my brazen confidence in the resume that I have to offer.

We are taught to be confident in what we have to offer this world upon our leaving this university – that our education is well rounded and profound and valuable, and truly, I believe that it is. The thing is, we are not so unique in our grand education as we might like to think. Though our resumes may be padded with fancy “action words” and study abroad experiences and other internships and a really personable “Interests” section, it turns out that a lot of other people’s resumes are pretty comparable in scope and personality, too.

This is not to downplay the things that this university can teach us or to give up hope of ever finding a decent job or happiness or whatever, but it actually shows me how much more valuable these things – interests, friends, learning, experiences – become when they are brought outside of the objective to solely settle down and find a job. If one can recognise that our degree and experiences are not guaranteed to bring us stability or happiness or comfort, how much more focused could that make us on finding those things that we desire outside of the confines of a coveted job or a sought-after internship? Our degree is not meant to buy us a one-way ticket to a worry-free existence, but to challenge us, to question us, to prepare us for a world that is full of nos and yeses alike. A rejection from one or two (or three) internship applications should not discourage us, it should inspire us to keep pursuing the things that we know will enrich our lives – whether or not we have a job or not.

Placing the means of your supposed future happiness in the hands of a professional (whose hands are already full of identical resumes) will only bring about disappointment and a lot of waiting. Our real job as we create and write down those lines of achievements and skills and interests is to find within those lines our own sort of happiness, independent of objective judgements from faraway strangers. We must follow our joys and know that happiness will soon follow.

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